Defining a strategy is essential for companies. However, a company strategy only comes to life and becomes effective if all employees know and understand it. That is why functional strategic communication is a central tool for management these days. Only in this way can teams work sustainably, autonomously and in line with the company strategy. In this article, we will discuss what methods are suitable for this and how outcome-oriented thinking can help.
- explains “why” certain company goals have been defined.
- provides strategic guidance for how companies should operate on all levels.
- helps align initiatives with overarching goals.
- makes it clear what contributions teams and employees can make to the goal.
- shows employees their purpose and motivates them.
- should take place continuously and ensure a simple understanding of the goals.
A strategy is only as good as its execution. That is why you should pay close attention to one aspect when communicating it: sustainability. That means it should be long-term and continuous. While it is normal for the highest level of strategy awareness to be at the beginning and then flatten out over time, that awareness should never drop below the necessary minimum. Doing so would jeopardize the execution and, as a result, the achievement of company goals.
Only when the strategy has been communicated sustainably and teams know and understand the strategic goals can they identify their contributions and prioritize their own goals and initiatives accordingly. This also leads to teams recognizing the purpose of their given tasks and can help them develop a higher level of commitment and motivation.
For sustainable strategic communication at all levels of a company, in which new personnel may be added at any time, the following motto applies: Less is more. To make your strategy easily understandable for employees, avoid using abbreviations or complicated, complex formulations. In this case, it helps to break the strategy down into an understandable message and a strategic guiding principle. Outcome-oriented thinking can be a great support system in this case.
Achieving clarity with the right formulation
An outcome is based on the quality criteria of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). These include the value and future state for your customers as well as clear quantifiability and measurability. When you translate the company strategy into measurable outcomes, you can create clarity about key priorities as well as demonstrate the desired future state the company is working towards and what has already been achieved. The latter especially creates motivation and a sense of success.
You can also use the following checklist to help guide you when formulating your strategic goals:
- Draft an initial, concise formulation in one to two sentences.
- Test it out on employees to see if the goals are clearly and precisely formulated.
- Ask if the strategy’s “why” is clear based on the formulation.
- Check if the message provides guidance for employees and if they can see what they should be basing their decisions on.
Involve managers at an early stage
While the strategy itself usually comes from the highest levels of the organization, it makes sense to widen the circle before the complete internal communication takes place. To do so, you can bring team managers on board to prepare the strategic communication as well as possible. It can be helpful at this point to test the strategy formulation and ask for feedback—also with regard to the goal itself. After all, team leads are the ones who will drive your strategy forward and are available to answer their teams’ questions. It is, therefore, important that they are also confident and motivated about the company goals.
Strategic communication has to offer more than just a yearly kick-off in January. Instead, your strategy should be continuously communicated. To ensure successful and sustainable strategic communication, there are several practical methods that can be used to comprehensively communicate your goals with employees and, above all, make sure they are always kept in mind.
A picture is worth a thousand words: Visualize your strategy
To start, it can be very helpful for teams and employees, especially when dealing with abstract topics, to see a visualization of the company strategy. A popular tool for this is the strategy map, which was developed as part of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) system. Summarized on one page, it shows the strategic cornerstones of the company as a map or a mind map. It offers the advantage of being easy to understand and always present. The strategic goals are divided into four perspectives of the BSC and clearly named, as the graphic below illustrates.
The Balanced Scorecard is a system developed by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton. It shows what goals or areas are particularly important for a company. It easily visualizes a company’s strategic goals and key figures, and helps with planning and strategy execution. For this, the goals are divided into four perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Process, and Learning and Growth. The BSC also works in combination with OKRs, like this article shows.
Sustainable strategic communication already starts at the conception of the strategy itself. This is because it is important to develop a strategy that can be supported by all relevant stakeholders. As already mentioned, it can be helpful to include managers early on in the process. Methodically, this can be effectively implemented through workshops. In this way, strategic guidelines can be broken down at the individual department and team level and then discussed. The goal is to make strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats visible and, as a result, gain the support of each team, starting with team leads.
Objectives and Key Results: OKRs are also a communication tool
Another method for effective strategic communication is the OKR method. OKRs help companies execute strategies faster and more effectively by helping to set measurable goals and improve transparency, alignment and employee engagement. At the method’s core, strategic communication is already present, and teams and employees are confronted with it continuously throughout the defined cycle. What’s more, the initiatives teams work towards each day are driven by the strategy.
These initiatives are formed from the goals the teams set in accordance with the company goals (the Objectives). Teams align their own actions based on what needs to be achieved (the outcomes the team should accomplish) in order to achieve the overarching goals.
With the right tools, the challenge of strategic communication can look much less daunting than originally thought. These tools help make strategic outcomes more accessible and visible for the entire company as well as effortlessly creating a strategic context for teams. Within the outcome management platform Workpath, there are a number of practical features available to help visualize your strategy in a sustainable, effective way.
Step by step: How to design your strategic communication with Workpath
Workpath is an outcome management tool based on OKRs. Since outcomes and OKRs are both suitable tools for strategic communication, this combination has a major advantage. For that reason, we will show you step by step how you can use software to make your strategic goals easily accessible and visible:
Step 1: Goal Drafting (at the organizational level)
To make the formulation of your company goals (Objectives) as easy as possible, the Goal Drafting feature from the Workpath software offers help in the form of tips. This way, you can quickly see where improvements can be made to make your strategic goals more outcome oriented.
Step 2: Key Result drafting (at the organizational level)
You will also get the same support for the formulation of your Key Results, which make your Objective measurable and scalable. Directly in the tool, useful tips will appear in the margin, indicating how you can form a Key Result to ensure it meets these requirements.
Step 3: Organizational Page
Once your strategic goals have been formulated according to the OKR quality criteria and saved in the tool, they are available for everyone at all times on the Organizational Page. In this way, you can ensure the strategy does not get lost in the daily routine. It also helps guide teams in the drafting of their own outcomes, for which the same functions from steps 1 and 2 are available.
Step 4: Graph (after the alignment phase)
For visualization of your strategies, your organization can use the Graph in the Workpath tool following the drafting and alignment phase of the OKR Cycle. This shows the links between individual goals and visualizes what outcomes contribute to the strategic goals and where there may be possible backlogs.